Robert Godfrey

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It was definitely not the Christmas surprise producers who suffered damage in the wake of Post Tropical Storm Dorian were hoping they would receive from the federal and provincial governments.

Just a few weeks before the arrival of Santa, the $12 million application for funding under the AgriRecovery program was turned down. While the PEI Federation of Agriculture spearheaded the job of documenting the damage from the storm in September of 2019, the actual application to Ottawa was made by the province.

Rather than an ongoing program, AgriRecovery is meant to cover losses caused by extraordinary weather or trade events. PEI potato growers collectively received $15.3 million under the program almost a year after a disastrous growing season in 2018 resulted in thousands of acres being left in the ground.

Federation Executive Director Robert Godfrey said he is still not totally clear exactly why the application was denied. The two governments have declined to release the report on which the decision is based citing confidentiality reasons-- a rationale Godfrey has trouble accepting. He has received a summary which indicates both governments feel part of the losses could be recovered through other programs.

"We have asked Ottawa to take a second look at the application and they have agreed," the executive director said. "There is certainly no guarantee anything will change."

If the decision stands, Godfrey said the federation will lobbying the province to at least provide the 40 per cent share of the funding that it would have spent if the application had been approved. He explained "we were under the assumption we had the support of the province and Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson felt our application had merit. We want to know what changed."

Corn fields across the province were flattened by the storm on September 7, 2019, delaying development of the crop. The corn that survived was then hit by several frosts later in the month.

The federation worked with a number of other organizations including the Dairy Farmers of PEI, Island Grains and Proteins Council, PEI Apple Growers, PEI Cattle Producers, PEI Horticultural Council and the Grain Elevator Corporation to document all of the losses resulting from the hurricane and its aftermath. The damage to corn and other forage crops made it challenging for many livestock producers in the province to secure feed over the winter months in 2020.

Godfrey said they were told by the province one of the reasons the application was unsuccessful was that apple growers in Nova Scotia did not make a similar request, even though they also sustained significant losses.

"That shouldn't really make any difference," he said. "They are two separate jurisdictions."

Godfrey said many producers are now gearing up for the second production season since the storm with significant losses on their books.

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